Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas) (3/10)
by Tony Medley
Based on a true story (we all
know what that means by now), this tells the tale of one group of
soldiers in World War I who were on opposite sides (meaning the krauts
on one side and the limeys and frogs on the other) laid down their arms
on Christmas Eve, 1914 and celebrated Christmas Eve together.
It actually happened. The
question is whether or not it happened the way writer/director Christian
Carion pictures it here. Unlikely.
Marring the film is the lip
syncing done by Diane Kruger, who plays Anna Sörenson, and Benno Fürmann,
who plays her husband, tenor Nikolaus Sprink. Their mouths are
synchronized to the words, but it is just so clear that they aren’t
singing it destroys the ambience Carion is trying to create.
Of all wars, WWI was the one
most run by cold-blooded imbeciles, especially the Allies. But this has
been beautifully dealt with in “Paths of Glory” (1957). Apparently a cat
was executed for treason in real life during WWI. This was too over the
top for Carion and he omitted it from his film because he thought it
would destroy its verisimilitude, even though it was true.
The worst part of this movie
is that it is so slow. It takes a long time to set up. Then when they
leave their trenches and get together, it is mildly inspirational,
descending into a clumsy anti-war message at the end.
One thing I didn’t understand
is that it is very cold on December 24, 1914 in Belgium, or wherever
they were. So cold that corpses have been laying around between the
trenches for more than a month and they are frozen solid. During the
cease fire, when they are making nice with each other, someone suggests
that during the truce they should bury all the corpses. Good idea, they
agree. So everyone hops out and digs lots of graves. Here’s the problem.
If it’s so cold that the corpses are frozen solid and haven’t decayed
one iota in over a month, wouldn’t the ground be frozen too solid to dig
February 16, 2006